No solutions for neighborhood plagued by floods

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Neighbors near 24th Street and Thomas Road want better drainage near their homes so they don't flood. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Neighbors near 24th Street and Thomas Road want better drainage near their homes so they don't flood. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The homeowners contend that the drainage ditch, which parallels the canal, is poorly maintained and that adds to their flooding. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The homeowners contend that the drainage ditch, which parallels the canal, is poorly maintained and that adds to their flooding. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The storm drains back up quickly and water builds up fast, crests the curb and floods yards and homes. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The storm drains back up quickly and water builds up fast, crests the curb and floods yards and homes. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

For the past several months, we’ve been asking questions of officials from the City of Phoenix and Salt River Project about a group of homes near 24th Street and Thomas Road that seem to experience significant flooding during heavy rain storms.

The homes are along Foote Drive. Their backyards border the Grand Canal operated by SRP.

The homeowners contend that the drainage ditch, which parallels the canal, is poorly maintained and that adds to their flooding. They have complained many times to SRP and the City. A number of homes along Foote Drive have been flooded three times in the past four years.

“If they’d come by once every month to clean this out, it would greatly help. It used to be, from what my neighbors tell me, 10 feet deep. That’s all they have to do is dig this out and keep it clean," said Christopher Smith, whose home flooded again during last week’s monsoon storm.

[Special section: Arizona monsoon 2017]

But Jim Duncan, an engineer with SRP, said it’s not that simple.

“Regardless of the size of this ditch the restrictive point at this head wall, there’s a 24-inch diameter pipe. That pipe can only carry so much water. So, right now, it can’t even carry what comes in this ditch as it is. If you make this ditch bigger, the water still has no place to go. It’s still going to back up. It’s still going to overflow,” said Duncan. 

The homes are built in a flood plain. That’s where the problem begins. When it rains, runoff water from adjacent streets all flows toward Foote Drive. The storm drains back up quickly and water builds up fast, crests the curb, and floods yards and homes.

Monica Hernandez, a spokeswoman for the City of Phoenix, said crews have inspected the area a number of times and high volumes of rain in a short period of time overwhelms the drainage system.

“The existing drainage infrastructure that’s tied to our roadway is not designed to accommodate large volumes of rain,” Hernandez wrote in an email. She added, “I’m in contact with my team to see what, if anything, we may be able to do here to help alleviate this issue.”

The water from the flooded street then makes its way to the drainage ditch that residents have been complaining about. When that overflows, they get hit from the back of their homes too.

“There is storm flow that comes off the neighborhood streets and adjacent properties and finds its way out onto this property. Some of which then fills up this old irrigation ditch and then it backs up back into the areas where the water came from,” said Duncan.

The SRP canal system is designed to deliver irrigation water. Duncan said it can receive some storm water, but its capacity is limited.

“A small amount of storm water is accepted into the canal if in turn it can be put right back out into a city storm drain. Otherwise, if all this water that’s causing this problem here were to find its way into the canal it would simply transfer this flooding issue to another neighborhood downstream,” said Duncan.

The controversy over the drainage ditch will likely not go away. Residents were out there during last week’s storm with pitch forks, removing debris from the grate over the pipe so water could release.

“Even if this ditch were in pristine condition, that small amount of water that’s going into the canal is not going to stop the flooding. Now, that doesn’t mean that no attention should be given to this ditch,” said Duncan.

SRP would not indicate if they would tend to the ditch or make it deeper. But Duncan said they are willing to work with the City to see if there is any way to help lessen the flooding problem in the area.

Both Duncan and Hernandez said the only real fix is a major storm drain improvement project, like the projects going on in other parts of the city.

According to Hernandez, there is no such project planned in the future for that specific area.

“It’s a funding issue,” said Hernandez.  

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